Skip to main content

tv   US Senate  CSPAN  February 24, 2016 10:00am-12:01pm EST

10:00 am
the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. mr. cotton: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cotton: i ask unanimous consent that the confirmation volt scheduled for 11:00 a.m. this morning be moved until 12:00 noon with all other provisions of the previous order remaininremaining in effect. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cotton: i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
10:01 am
10:02 am
10:03 am
10:04 am
10:05 am
10:06 am
10:07 am
10:08 am
10:09 am
10:10 am
10:11 am
mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from -- mr. durbin: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, every member of the senate stands in the well of the senate when they are elected, takes an oath of office. that oath of office required by the constitution is our statement to not only the people we represent but to the nation that we will uphold and defend the constitution of the united states. article 2, section 2, of that constitution empowers the president and those powers include the president's power to fill vacancies on the supreme court. it's not permissive language. the word "shall" can be found in this paragraph.
10:12 am
and it basically says that the president of the united states shall nominate and by and with advice and consent of the senate shall appoint judges of the supreme court. for the first time in the history of the united states of america, the senate republicans are prepared to defy this clear statement of the united states constitution. what an irony that filling the vacancy on the court by the untimely death of antonin scalia, filling the vacancy on the court of a man who prided himself throughout his judicial career of being what he termed "on originalist," sticking to the strict letter of the law as spelled out in the constitution, that in filling that vacancy the senate republicans have basically decided to reach a new low, in fact, to make history in a very sad way. a seat on the u.s. supreme court
10:13 am
lies vacant because of the death of justice scalia. the president has the constitutional obligation, as i've read, to name a nominee to fill that vacancy. and senate republicans are now saying they won't even hold a hearing on that nominee. if the president sends a name -- and he will -- to the senate to fill that vacancy, they have said they will not hold a hearing, they will not schedule a vote, and -- listen to this -- yesterday senator mcconnell said, i will not even meet with that person. this is a new low. since the senate judiciary committee started holding hearings on supreme court nominees a century ago, the senate of the united states of america has never -- never -- denied a hearing to pending supreme court nominees. it has never happened. but that's what senate republicans are saying that they will do. this level of obstruction, of
10:14 am
ignoring the clear language of the constitution is unpreceden unprecedented, and it is dangerous. this goes beyond any single vote for any supreme court nominee. this is an abdication of the senate's responsibility under article 2, section 2, of the constitution to provide advice and consent on supreme court nominations, which the president shall appoint, shall nominate. senate republicans want to keep the supreme court vacant for more than one year. they want this vacancy to continue for more than one year. that will encompass two terms of the supreme court. this is demeaning to the institution of the supreme court, unfair to millions of americans who rely on that court to resolve important legal questions. in the coming days, the president will name a nominee, as the constitution requires; senate republicans should meet
10:15 am
their responsibility under the constitution. senate republicans should do their job. give the president's nominee a fair hearing and a vote. is yesterday the republican members of the senate judiciary committee sent a letter to the majority leader and here's what they said -- quote -- "this committee will not hold hearings on any supreme court nominee until after our next president is sworn in on january 20, 2017." end of quote. why did they take this unusual position in defiance of the constitution? quote, "the presidential is well underway. the american people are given a rare opportunity to decide in a very real and concrete way the direction the court will take over the next generation." end of quote. that argument is specious. the american people have already voted. they voted to elect our
10:16 am
president, barack obama, and they voted to elect 100 senators who currently serve in this body. president obama was elected to a four-year term, and 11 months remain. the american people voted for each of us to do our jobs for as long as we serve in office. by a margin of five million votes, the american people have chosen a president. did they elect a president for three years or three years and two months? no. they elected a president for four years, and this president's term continues until january 20 of 2017. the republicans conveniently ignore the obvious. the will of the american people was expressed in that election and the election of barack obama as president of the united states empowers him under the constitution to fill this appointment, fill this vacancy with an appointment. they didn't vote in that election for us to sit on our hands for over a year while the supreme court twists in the wind
10:17 am
and while the republican senators pray every night that president donald trump will somehow give america a different supreme court nominee. and not a single american incidentally has yet cast a vote for president of the united states. not one in the next election, despite the statement of the senate judiciary committee letter that says otherwise. it is february and this year the nomination conventions are scheduled for late july. the modern supreme court confirmation process has taken an average of 67 days. there is more than adequate time to hold a hearing on this nominee and get this done properly. all we need is for the senate republicans to do their job. yesterday on the senate floor i urged my republican colleagues not to duck a vote on the president's nominee. they could voting "yes," they could vote "no" but they
10:18 am
shouldn't abdicate their constitutional responsibility for political advantage. i'm amazed that my republican colleagues now say they not only want to duck that vote, they also want to avoid even having a hearing on the nominee. and they're afraid to even meet with this nominee for fear that maybe they might think it's a good nominee. even more shockingly, the republican leader and several republican members of the judiciary committee said yesterday they would not even meet with the president's nominee. i heard one of our colleagues in the senate last night on television, when asked pointedly and directly if the president nominates someone from your state to the supreme court vacancy, are you saying you wouldn't meet with that person? my colleague on the other side of the aisle ducked the question. this is stunning. remember, the president is obligated by article 2, section 2, of the constitution to send a nominee to the senate. that is the process the founding fathers established. that is the president's
10:19 am
responsibility. how can the senate republicans refuse to even meet with the person selected under that constitutional process? how is that being faithful to the terms of that constitution? how are the senate republicans upholding and defending this constitution by this evasive historically unprecedented action? sadly it appears the senate republicans have calculated that it's in their political best interest to keep the president's nominee out of the spotlight. they are hoping that with this letter from the senate judiciary committee and by saying yesterday we'll have nothing to do with it, they're going to turn out the lights on this issue. that's not what's going to happen. this issue is going to be there and remembered, and it's going to be recalled on the floor of the senate repeatedly. they thought they could close down the government when senator cruz of texas sat here for i don't know how many hours reading dr. seuss while we shut down the government, and they thought people would forget senator cruz shutting down the
10:20 am
government. they didn't. and he is finding on his campaign trail that a lot of people have remembered that. well, the american people are not going to forget what the senate republicans are trying to do with the supreme court. i served on the senate judiciary committee for the hearings and confirmation votes of four of the eight sitting supreme court justices. let me state clearly that this senator is more than happy to meet with the president's supreme court nominee, as i have with all nominees, republican and democrat alike. and i will consider that nominee on the merits, as i've always tried to do in the past. yesterday senate republicans also tried to deflect attention from their unprecedented obstruction by pointing to quotes from some democrats years ago. but the record is clear, democrats have never, never blocked a supreme court nominee from having a hearing. republicans are breaking new ground with this obstructionism. the american people deserve better. the bottom line, there's no
10:21 am
excuse for the senate to fail to do its job. once the president has named his nominee, the senate must give that nominee a fair hearing and a timely vote. if the constitution means anything to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, they understand what they are doing is unprecedented. it has never happened once in american history. we are now finding the obstructionism of senate republicans reaching a new low. they are ignoring the clear wording of our constitution which they have sworn to uphold and defend, and they are obstructing in a way that we have never seen before in the history of the united states. that is the reality, a reality that will not be lost on the american people. mr. president, i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
10:22 am
10:23 am
10:24 am
10:25 am
10:26 am
10:27 am
10:28 am
10:29 am
the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. mr. barrasso: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i come to the floor today to talk about a drug abuse problem that is hurting millions, literally millions of americans. there's been a dramatic rise in the use and misuse of prescription painkillers in this country. these prescription painkillers -- and i tell you this as a doctor -- are known as
10:30 am
opioids. between 1999 and 2013, sales of prescription painkillers in the united states has quadrupled. so it's no coincidence that over that same number of years, overdose deaths from these drugs has also quadrupled. now, this is how we know that there has been a huge shift from ththe appropriate use to abuse f these medications. people in rural areas like my own are almost twice as likely to overdose on prescription painkillers than people in large cities. people think these drugs are only a problem in the big cities. that's not the case with these opioids. i can tell you as a doctor who practiced medicine for 25 years, treating pain in our patients is one of the most difficult things that we do. when you have a patient, we know they're in pain, we want to help, we want to help relieve the pain.
10:31 am
opioids are a very effective way to help patients with pain, and doctors use these medications through prescriptions to help manage the pain. it's important that we have the capacity to do that as long as it's done appropriately. now, this can be a very good option for someone suffering from chronic pain, such as pain from cancer. it can be appropriate for someone who is suffering from acute pain, temporary pain, for someone who's just had surgery. the problem is, these are extremely powerful narcotics. chemically, they are a not that different from heroin, and they can become addictive. some patients have no problem at all taking these painkillers for the proper amount of time. other patients might develop a problem and actually have trouble getting off of the pain pills. now, as they get accustomed to
10:32 am
the drug, sometimes they may seek out stronger and then more addictive drugs to get the same pain relief. that's why doctors have to be very careful about prescribing the right medicine for each patient and each situation. they have to balance the risk of the drug with the reward of easing the patient's pain. not every doctor in this country has been as careful as they should be. we didn't get into this difficult situation because of a handful of doctors who are just writing too many prescriptions. these prescriptions are being written by doctors in communities all across the country. it's happening in emergency rooms. it's happening with family doctors, with specialists, and even with dentists. now, i believe washington policies have inadvertently contributed to the problem. the centers for medicare and medicaid have made payments to hospitals based partly on how well the specific hospital has scored on surveys filled out by the patients, the patients who
10:33 am
have been in those hospitals. well, some of the questions on these surveys ask people things liesh dndlike, during this hosp, how often was your pain well-controlled? so patients are asked that. and they're also asked, how often did the hospital staff do everything that they could to help you with your pain? well, you can see how doctors might feel pressured to prescribe more and stronger opioid pain relievers to make sure that their hospital doesn't get low scores and get penalized by the pur bureaucrats here in washington. the department of health and human services is looking into whether these surveys are contributing to this rise in prescriptions and what can be done about it. earlier this month, i was one of 26 senators -- 26 members of this body, republicans and democrats alike -- who wrote to the secretary of health and human services to make sure that she keeps us apprised on the
10:34 am
effects that these regulations might be having. if these pain relievers are being prescribed inappropriately, they can do more harm than good. that's the problem. some of these people who do get these prescriptions, for all the right reasons, end up being addicted. when the prescription runs out, they may actually experience withdrawal symptoms, and i've seen it happen. so we know that some of the people who becomeaddicted to these opioids then, what do they do? they seek pills on the black market or they turn to other drurkdrugs, including heroin. heroin is actually cheaper than the prescription opioids, and of course more deadly. from 2002 to 2003, heroin use in the united states has nearly doubled. the death from heroin use has quad triewmed. heroin has become a more
10:35 am
attractive drug for addicts to buy and to use. at the same time, heroin today is believed to be much more powerful than it used to be. it may be that people who use it are much more likely to overdose. when we see statistics like these or just talk to people who work in emergency rooms and deal with the drug addictions and the 911 calls, opioid abuse and heroin abuse, and we see these problems, i think it is time for congress to ct act. we can't turn a blind eye to americans who are suffering and dying. that's why the senate ought to be taking up action to help stop the damage being done. recently the senate judiciary committee passed the comprehensive addiction and recovery act, bipartisan support. and it is one more sign that the senate has gotten back to work on barf of the american people. just -- on behalf of the american people. just like the name of the legislation says, it actually addresses both problems: addiction and recovery.
10:36 am
it's going to increase education and prevention efforts to help keep people from becoming addicted to painkillers in the first place. it's also going to strengthen state programs to monitor prescription drugs and to track when these drugs end up in the wrong hand. -- in the wrong hands. for the people who've already passed from use of the medications to abuse and addiction, this legislation would help to launch treatment programs that are based on actual evidence of what works. there are a lot of treatment programs out there, lots of different opportunities to seek treatment. we want to make sure we can identify the ones that are actually succeeding and helping people. and then make sure that these programs are available to more people. now, these are just a few of the possive ideas in the -- positive ideas in the legislation. senator kelley ayotte, who is one of the main cosponsors of this legislation, says we can't
10:37 am
arrest our way out of this problem. she's exactly right. the misuse ran and abuse of thee drugs is illegal. we must acknowledge that fact. we must still try to do everything in our power to keep this misuse from turning into addiction and even death. there are states and communities and families suffering because of the abuse of these drugs. we can all be part of the solution, and we must all be part of the solution. so i know that the committee on health, education, labor, and pensions is looking into another aspect of this country. so is the financial committee. there are lots of ideas out there and i am glad to see members take the issue so seriously. i'm glad we're moving forward with bipartisan solutions. senator ayotte has been a major force in talking about this problem. so have senators whitehouse, kirk, portman, and others. another good idea is common sense in terms of changing medicare part-d and medicare
10:38 am
advantage. this legislation has been introduced by senator pat toomey of pennsylvania. the bill is called the stopping medication abuse and protecting seniors act. that's it. stopping medication abuse and protecting seniors. it allows part-d and medicare advantage plans to lock in patients to a single prescriber, a single pharmacy for their opioid pain medicine. this is going to do a couple things. it's going to deal with the issue of doctor shopping. that's when a patient goes to multiple providers to get duplicate prescriptions if they become addicted. many private insurance companies already do this, and so does medicaid. so we should allow and encourage medicare to do it as well. these are all ideas with bipartisan support in the senate. they're examples of ways that democrats and republicans are working together to help americans who need help, who deserve help.
10:39 am
the abuse of prescription drugs and heroin is happening everywhere in america. it is harming our nation. congress must do what we can to stop it. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
10:40 am
10:41 am
10:42 am
10:43 am
10:44 am
10:45 am
quorum call:
10:46 am
10:47 am
10:48 am
10:49 am
10:50 am
10:51 am
10:52 am
10:53 am
10:54 am
10:55 am
10:56 am
10:57 am
ms. hirono: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from hawaii. ms. hirono: are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. ms. hirono: i ask unanimous consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. hirono: mr. president, i also ask unanimous consent that the privileges of the floor be
10:58 am
granted to monicia gupta for the remainder of the 114th congress. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. hirono: mr. president, our republican colleagues decided that the senate should not hold aing hearing or vote on -- a hearing or vote on any supreme court nominee this year. the reason? it is an election year. that is a breathtakingly candid but utterly irresponsible reason for the senate not to do its job. that decision may not surprise those who follow the senate in recent years as our republican colleagues have time and again chosen to obstruct president obama's agenda. we can disagree on legislation. we can disagree on policies. we can certainly disagree on judicial nominations. but the idea that the senate should not take any action on a supreme court vacancy is unprecedented. in the last 100 years, the
10:59 am
senate has taken action on every supreme court nominee, whether it's an election year or not. not only has the senate taken action, but the senate has confirmed more than a dozen supreme court justices in the final year of a presidency. in fact, a democratic senate confirmed justice anthony kennedy in the final year of president reagan's term. yet, roughly nine months before the next election the republican position is that the senate shouldn't do its job because 11 months from now we'll have a new president. i ask you, what has that the -- that got to do with us doing our jobs? under the republican time line, the supreme court will left with only eight justices for over a year. the last time it took so long for the senate to fill a vacancy on the court was during the civil war. the rationale that the senate shouldn't act because of an
11:00 am
upcoming election is not only stunning, but i think most americans would agree absurd. in what other workplace can employees announce that they don't plan to fulfill their responsibilities for nine months and still get paid? but that is exactly what republicans are saying to the american people. we work for the american people. the american people elect senators, representatives and presidents. through elections, the people shape the direction of our country. while republicans may want to forget it, in 2012, the people elected president obama to a full four-year term. that term doesn't end for nearly a year. his responsibilities as president don't stop because a republican senate says so. the constitution requires a president to nominate someone to fill a vacancy on the supreme court. the constitution requires the senate to provide advise and
11:01 am
consent on the president's nominee. that is our job as senators. the president hasn't nominated anyone to fill the current supreme court vacancy. when he does, no senator is required to vote for that nominee, but what is required is for the senate to fulfill its constitutional duties. the president's nominee deserves a hearing and a vote. no excuses. let's do our jobs. turning to another subject, mr. president, 74 years ago, president roosevelt signed executive order 9066. that order led to the mass internment of nearly 120,000 japanese americans. executive order 9066 is an example of what can happen when a government acts out of fear. today i am introducing a resolution that recognizes this
11:02 am
stark chapter and calls for the senate and all americans to uphold the lessons learned from the issuance of executive order 9066. in the wake of the bombing of pearl harbor in 1941, americans of japanese ancestry living in the united states became a target of paranoia, suspicion and fear. without any evidence of subterfuge, the government classified japanese americans as enemy aliens. based purely on race and removed japanese families from the west coast in the name of national security. these were families like yours and mine, farmers, students, shop owners, buddhist priests, teachers, parents and grandparents working toward the american dream of giving their children a better future. the majority were american citizens. these families were forced to
11:03 am
abandon or sell for a pittance homes and businesses that they had spent decades building. many destroyed family treasures that could link them to japan. thousands of college students had their educations cut short when they were forced to leave school for the internment camps. one university of washington student who was forced to leave school, gordon hubiashi, would go on to challenge the legality of internment all the way to the u.s. supreme court. gordon's parents had immigrated from japan and settled in washington state where they were farmers. upon the signing of executive order 9066 and executive orders, the hubiashi family and tins of thousands of other japanese-american families were forced to pack up only what they could carry for a long train ride to unknown destinations. upon arriving at baron and isolated internment camps,
11:04 am
including honoululu internment camp, these families passed through barbed wire fences and armed guards. they settled in hastily constructed shan'ties that let in the elements. there was little privacy. until these internment camps were built, many families were forced into horse stalls. the shame and humiliation were extreme. nearly 120,000 men, women and children did the best they could under harsh circumstances, persevering through what at the time seemed unbearable. despite this streement at the hands of their own government, the time came when many joined the war effort. from behind barbed wire, these young japanese-american men fought for their country, and in that process and in doing so proved their loyalty to the united states.
11:05 am
the army agreed to form the segregated 442nd regimental combat team, the 100th battalion and the military intelligence service. thousands of men in hawaii and across the internment camps, including our late colleague senator daniel k. inouye, volunteered to take on the most dangerous missions in europe. today the 442nd and the 100th battalion remain the most decorated units in the army's history. these units as well as the military intelligence service were awarded the congressional gold medal in 2011. after the war ended, for all the sacrifice japan-americans are forced to make, for all that they have to give up, each internee was then be given $25 and a train ticket to their prewar residence. many of them never returned to their homes because there was nothing to return to.
11:06 am
it was not until 34 years later, due to the work of japanese-american citizens league and other individuals and groups that president gerald ford issued proclamation 1447 which formally terminated the authority of executive order 9066. the ford proclamation read in part -- quote -- "i call upon the american people to affirm with me this american promise -- to treasure liberty and justice for each individual american and resolve that this kind of action shall never again be repeated." end quote. while the internment is now recognized as one of the darkest periods in our nation's history, we must not forget that executive order 9066 had widespread support at the time. the fight for former recognition of these injustices -- for formal recognition of these
11:07 am
injustices has been a long and challenging road that continues to this day. i'd like to recognize the efforts of three japanese-americans -- gordon hirubiashi, minori matsui and fred bamatsu. they were right, but it took decades of work to achieve justice for these individuals who took their cases all the way to the supreme court. in the majority opinion of 1944, the supreme court found that the internment was justified during a time of war, a ruling that further underscores what can only be characterized as the rampant fear and racism at the time. i had the privilege of meeting fred and his family several times before his passing in 2005. after the war, he, gordon and
11:08 am
minori continued to fight for rights during their whole lives. fred's work is carried on by his daughter. these three individuals were years later awarded the presidential medal of freedom. and in minori's case, only last year. it was not until the 1980's, almost 40 years after internment ended that a new generation of attorneys and scholars took up their fight. they uncovered evidence that the government had information that proved that japanese americans were not a threat to the united states. gordon, minori and fred appealed their earlier convictions, and the ninth circuit court vacated all of their convictions in the 1980's. and gordon said after the ninth circuit overturned his earlier conviction -- quote -- "there was a time when i felt the constitution failed me, but with the reversal in the courts and in public statements from the government, i feel that our country has proven the
11:09 am
constitution is worth upholding. the u.s. government admitted it made a mistake. a country that can do that is a strong country. i have more faith and allegiance to the constitution than i ever had before, unquote. today i call upon all my colleagues to hold gordon's faith in our constitution. undoubtedly the u.s. government must keep people safe. however, as we learned with the internment, a government gripped by fear and hysteria can make terrible mistakes. not one american of japanese ancestry who was interned has ever been found guilty of sabotage or espionage. focusing on the most vulnerable of targets, usually a minority group does not make our nation safe or more secure. actions like the internment betray our values and undermine our strength as a people. we are often reminded to learn
11:10 am
from history that presumes we are aware of the relevant history. the story of the internment remains one still unfamiliar to many americans. for instance, mayor david bowers of roanoke, virginia, who used the internment of justification to suspend assistance to syrian refugees. he later apologizeed. more recently, george takei's play "apledge allegiancians" which ended its broadway run recently depicted the shock, humiliation, anger and resolve of one family, the kimoras who were interned in hart mountain, wyoming. their internment was like that of thousands of other japanese-americans. and like too many others, the internment didn't end for the kimoras when world war ii ended. their family relations were irreparably damaged. yet despite efforts to educate a new generation of americans through efforts like
11:11 am
"allegiance," today we hear echoes of the sentiments of 1942 directed to our members of the south asian, muslim, sikh, hindu, arab and middle eastern communities. there are reports of children from these communities beaten up in schools, families being threatened in their homes and houses of worship vandalized and set on fire. we hear calls from public figures and officials to racially profile and conduct surveillance on muslim-americans as well as to bar their entry into our country. while the security of the american people is a top priority, the advice and proposals to ban all muslims, for example, from entering the united states do nothing to make us safer. rather, they take us back to a time when our policies were guided by fear, stereotypes and mistrust. now is not the time to turn on one another. now is the time to stand
11:12 am
together against the hate and fear that divides our country. in affirming our commitment to liberty and justice for all, we must remember that the united states is a diverse country in which individuals of all backgrounds have made positive and continue to make positive contributions to the well-being and security of our nation. it is important to speak out against hateful rhetoric and divisive policy proposals that prey on people's fears and instead promote our american values that are rooted in compassion, respect for others, justice and equality. i am joined today in the gallery by advocates from the asian american and pacific island and asylum communities. mohala to you for the work you do every day to advance equality, liberty and justice for all. these values are the strength of
11:13 am
america. let's stand together in solidarity. that in this new century we will not give in to old fears, old prejudices and unjustified actions. mr. president, i yield the floor. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
11:14 am
11:15 am
quorum call:
11:16 am
11:17 am
11:18 am
11:19 am
11:20 am
11:21 am
11:22 am
11:23 am
11:24 am
11:25 am
11:26 am
11:27 am
11:28 am
11:29 am
11:30 am
quorum call:
11:31 am
11:32 am
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority whip. mr. cornyn: i would ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be rescinded. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: mr. president, yesterday it was my privilege to say a few words honoring the memory of judge antonin scalia, known to his friends as nino, and a man whose intellect and wit and dedication to our constitution has served our country for decades. i'm glad others have said appropriate words honoring his memory and the many ways that he's helped strengthen our constitutional self-government and our democracy. as we know, the constitution gives the united states senate an equal role in deciding who eventually is to serve on the
11:33 am
supreme court of the united states. president obama called my and other members of the judiciary committee yesterday saying that he intends to exercise his constitutional authority, and i recognize his right to make that nomination. but not since 1932 has the united states senate in a presidential election year confirmed a supreme court nominee to a vacancy that arose in that presidential election year. and it's necessary to go even further back -- i believe it was to the administration of grover cleveland in 1888 -- to find an election year nominee who was nominated and confirmed under a divided government such as we have now. so i find it very curious that some of our colleagues across the aisle are effusive in their criticism to withhold consent until we have a new president
11:34 am
and in effect say this ought to be a choice not just confined to the 100 members of the united states senate and the president but to the american people. and we're not saying -- we're not foreclosing the possibility that a member of one party or another party will be the one to make that nominee. this isn't a partisan issue. this is about the people's having a chance to express their views and raising the stakes and the visibility of the presidential election to make the point that this isn't just about the next president, who will serve four years, maybe eight years. this will likely be about who will serve the next 30 years on the supreme court of the united states. so i'm going to remind some of our colleagues some of the things they have said in the past for which they are so -- they have so roundly criticized us. you know, people understand when there is differences of opinion.
11:35 am
it's a little harder to understand hypocrisy, when you have taken just the opposite position when it's suited your purposes in the past to the position you take today. so let me just be charitable and say maybe they have just forgotten. i just want to remind, for example, the minority leader, senator reid. this is what senator reid of nevada, the democratic leader, said on may 19, 2005. this is when president george w. bush was president of the united states. he said -- "the duties of the senate are set forth in the constitution. nowhere in that document does it say the senate has a duty to give presidential appointees a vote." that's senator reid. i agree with him. that's exactly right.
11:36 am
but that's not the position he appears to be taking today. the president has every right to nominate someone, but the senate has the authority to grant consent or to withhold consent, and what i and the other members of the judiciary committee on the republican side said yesterday in a letter to the majority leader is that we believe unanimously, all the republicans on the senate judiciary committee, that we should withhold consent. exercising a right and the authority recognized by senator reid in 2005. now, i have read some of the press clips. people recoil in mock horror. well, you're not even going to have a hearing? you're not even going to meet with the president's proposed nominee? well, that's right, for a very
11:37 am
good reason, because it's not about the penalty of -- personality of that nominee. so it would be pretty misleading for us to take the same position that senator reid has taken and then say we're going to go through this elaborate dance of having courtesy meetings, maybe even having a hearing when we've already decided, as senator reid acknowledged is the right of the senate, not to bring up this president's nominee for a vote. and not to reordain who that next nominee will be, whether it will be nominated by a republican or democratic president, we don't know what the outcome of the presidential election is going to be, but this is too important for the congress and for the senate to be stampeded into a rubber stamp of president obama's selection on the supreme court as he's heading out the door, a decision
11:38 am
which could well have an impact on the balance of power on the supreme court for the next 30 years. well, i'm not through with my charts. the next democratic leader in the senate, senator schumer, -- oh, i guess you could call the reid standard, we'll call it the reid rule and the schumer standard. it rolls off the tongue better. so this is what senator schumer said. this is 18 months before president george w. bush was -- left office. he said -- "for the rest of this president's term" -- this is 18 months. we're only looking at roughly 10 or 11 months until president obama leaves. "for the rest of this president's term, we should reverse the presumption of confirmation." i frankly don't know what he's
11:39 am
talking about. the constitution doesn't talk about a presumption of confirmation, but it's pretty clear to me he wants a presumption that the nominee will not be confirmed for the next 18 months. senator schumer, one of the democratic leaders, said -- "i will recommend to my colleagues that we should not confirm a supreme court nominee except in extraordinary circumstances." so what we are doing is what senator reid and senator schumer advocated back when it was convenient and served their purposes way back when. they are now taking a different position because of course their interests are different. they want to make sure president obama gets a chance to nominate and the senate confirm president obama's nominee who will serve for perhaps the next quarter century or more on the supreme court. but it's pretty clear the
11:40 am
senate's not bound to confirm a supreme court nominee or even hold a vote. finally, i want to point out, we'll call it the reid rule, the schumer standard and the biden benchmark. so here's what the vice president of the united states said, joe biden, back in 1992. he was chairman of the senate judiciary committee, and he gave a long speech in of which -- of which this is an excerpt. he said -- "the senate judiciary committee should seriously consider not scheduling confirmation hearings on the nomination until after the political campaign season is over. action on a supreme court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over." that's the biden benchmark. the reid rule, the schumer standard, the biden benchmark. now i read a statement from the vice president where -- that he issued after he saw that this
11:41 am
old news clip and his statement had been made public. he quite conveniently said this is not an accurate view -- this is not an accurate description of my views on the subject. well, i think the words are pretty clear. i think what he might have said is that these are no longer my views on the subject because, of course, he would like president obama to be able to make that nomination. so i want to reject this myth that many of our democratic colleagues are spreading that what we are doing here and now is somehow unprecedented. quite the clear, what we are doing is what the democrats' top leadership has advocated in the past. what do they think we are? they think we're going to abide by a different set of rules than
11:42 am
they themselves advocated? how ridiculous would that be? i could not explain that to my constituents back home in texas. if i was going to say well, the democrats can apply one set of rules but then when republicans are in the majority, republicans must apply a different set of rules. well, the fact of the matter is the rule book has been burned by the democrats. what we're operating under is the status quo that they advocated back in 1992, 2005 and 2007. so, mr. president, the senate has every right under the constitution not to have a hearing, and we shouldn't go through some motions presending like we are or that this is really about the personality of whoever the president nominates. i have confidence the president will nominate somebody who he
11:43 am
thinks is qualified to be on the supreme court. i would point out, though, that this nominee will not be confirmed, and i don't know many leading lawyers, scholars and judges who would want to be nominated for the united states supreme court to a seat that president obama will never fill. so during this already very heated election year -- and the election is already under way. democrats are voting in democratic primaries. republicans are voting in republican primaries and caucuses. the election is already under way. and the supreme court can function in the vast majority of cases with eight members, and it frequently does anyway, because most cases are not decided 5-4. most cases are decided on a consensus basis. but let's say for the six or so
11:44 am
cases in which justice scalia was a deciding vote in a 5-4 case last year, well, if there is a deadlock, those cases can simply be held over until the next year when there is a new justice. or the court can come up with some other way to dispose of it as it sees fit. it frequently happens, for example, when justice kagan was solicitor general of the united states and was recused from and could not sit on cases that she handled as a representative for the u.s. government once she got to the supreme court. so the court operated with eight justices for a long time because of justice kagan's recusal. similarly, when justice anthony kennedy served on the ninth circuit court of appeals, once he got to the supreme court of the united states, he couldn't then sit on those cases and decide them once as a circuit court judge and another time as
11:45 am
a supreme court judge. he refused. which means that there were eight justices to decide those cases. this is not extraordinary. this is not uncommon. and it is not going to paralyze the supreme court of the united states from doing its job. it hs it needs at its disposal to handle these cases as it sees fit, either to dismiss them, to hold them over if they truly are deadlocked, or to find some other perhaps more narrow basis upon which to decide the case which would command a five-vote majority with eight members of the court. so, mr. president, i'd like our colleagues to come out here and explain this apparent contradiction and their position that they took in 2007, 2005, and 1992.
11:46 am
because if they can't explain that, then it looks to me like this is pure hypocrisy. holding republicans when we're in the majority to a different standard than they themselves were willing to embrace when they were in power. like i said, people may not understand a lot of the knitty knitty -- details of this but they have a strong sense of fairness and they do smell hypocrisy and see it when it's right before their eyes. mr. president, on a different matter, i have seven unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. these have been approved by the majority and minority leaders. i'd ask consent that these requests be agreed to and be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
11:47 am
quorum call:
11:48 am
11:49 am
11:50 am
11:51 am
11:52 am
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. ms. heitkamp: i ask that the quorum call be vindicated. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. heitkamp: i come to the floor today with a pretty simple message, a message that the people have been delivering to me and the people of north dakota, which is that congress needs to do its job. whether it's legislating on wotus, making sure we move legislation properly, taking votes that maybe make some of us uncomfortable here. that's our job. that's why the american taxpayers pay us.
11:53 am
i'm coming here today saying congress do your job. senate, do your job. every day families across this country go to work and fulfill their responsibilities and obligations. they do their job. they put food on the table for their families, and they pay their bills. imagine a construction worker in north dakota telling his boss that he doesn't want to do his job for the rest of the year until conditions are probably more favorable. he might get a good laugh. he might be told to go back to work. and if he was serious, he wouldn't have a job very long. everyone here knows that american workers can't go to their jobs and just announce, "i don't want to do that today. " say, "i'm not going to do my job today for the rest of the year. i'm going to wait to find out who might be the new boss." it's not how it works for the american people and it's certainly not how it should work for the united states senate. i think in many ways it's an embarrassment in a some of my colleagues would not only ask the president not to do his job, a job that our constitution
11:54 am
instructs him to do, but they would also shirk their own duties to provide advice and consent to the president simply because it is not a good political time to do it. it says something, i think, pretty terrible about congress if the senate now is making determinations about how a popularly elected president, regardless of political party, regardless of whether that president is popular in this chamber or not, is no longer allowed to perform the duties of that office and nominate and receive a vote on the supreme court nominee of his choosing. it's a disappointing day when some senators will tell the president, don't even bother because we will not even consider or even talk to your nominee. this is before the president has even announced or named a nominee. and it's particularly frustrating to those of us who really want the senate to work, that some senators are willing to hamper the functioning of yet
11:55 am
another bernanke -- another branch of our federal government simply to play politics with the hope that those politics will benefit one party to maintain and possibly take control of the other two branches of government. i don't think anyone can dispute the facts. the supreme court considered some of the most critical issues facing our country and the american people deserve a fully functioning court. to insist that the court go through potentially two terms without a full slate of justices is an abdication of our responsibility as united states senators. that responsibility is to make sure that america has a fully functioning three branches of government. and now just yesterday we hear that my colleagues are not even going to entertain the thought of a hearing before the judiciary committee for any nominee that the president puts forward. i don't know how you can explain that decision. i don't know how you can say for
11:56 am
the next ten months it doesn't matter. i don't know how to explain that to people back in north dakota. and so in the last 100 years the full senate has taken action on every pending supreme court nominee to fill a vacancy l regardless of whether the nomination was made in a presidential election year. according to c.r.s., congressional research service, since 1975 the average number of days from nomination to final senate confirmation is 67 days or just over two months. since committee hearings began in 1916, every pending supreme court nominee has received a hearing except nine nominees who were all confirmed within 11 days. in addition to holding hearings on the nomination, the senate judiciary committee has a long-standing bipartisan tradition of sending to the full senate all pending nominees to the supreme court for a supreme court vacancy, even when the
11:57 am
majority of the committee may not have supported that nominee. in this supreme court, if in fact this supreme court vacancy is held open until the next president makes the nomination, that will mean it is vacant for well over a year. not since the civil war -- not since the civil war has the senate taken longer it than a year to fill a supreme court vacancy. an extended period of time with only eight members of the supreme court sitting would delay or prevent justice from being served. there are american citizens across the country who need decisions from the court on various variety of issues. in fact, what we have done is we have elevated the circuit courts who have made the decisions that are currently pending, we have elevated the circuit courts to really the position of the supreme court of the united states. denying, denying access to those
11:58 am
claimants one way or the other, whether the court agreed with them or the court disagreed with them in the circuit courts, denying them access to that final appeal, denying them access to that supreme court decision. so i just simply want to say let's do our job. let's give the nominee a hearing. let's vote in the committee. let's all do our job to vet the candidates. let's not prejudge this. let's do the responsible thing. let's vote "yes" or "no." let's take a look at the candidate that is going to be nominated and let's get a fully functioning supreme court. i want to close with just one reminder. the last time we went through a very contentious hearing was the hearing for justice thomas, and i think my colleague from washington who is on the floor well remembers that, as do a lot of people here remember that. i want to just remark that justice thomas was sent to this
11:59 am
floor without a positive vote out of committee, but sent to the floor. and justice thomas' nomination, at the urging of then-majority leader mitchell, was not filibustered. that probably the most contentious nominee in my lifetime certainly, and certainly, you know, raised some very interesting gender issues, did not even get filibustered. let's do our job. let's do the work that the people sent us here to do. let's vet this candidate, whoever it might be. and let's move forward so that every person who has a case pending before the supreme court, or will have a case pending before the supreme court is given access to justice by providing a fully functioning supreme court. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. ms. klobuchar: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to speak behalf of the nomination before
12:00 pm
the vote. two minutes. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mrs. murray: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, the role of the f.d.a. commissioner is central to the health and safety of every family and community nationwide, from a dad making his daughter's peanut butter sandwich in the morning to a patient headed into an operating room. so i know this is a nomination that we all take very seriously. after careful review, i believe dr. califf's experience and expertise will allow him to lead the f.d.a. in a way that puts patients and families first and upholds the highest standards of patient and consumer safety. dr. califf has led one of our country's largest clinical research organizations, and he has a record of advancing medical breakthroughs on especially difficult to treat illnesses. he has a long-standing commitment to transparency in relationships with industry and working to ensure academic integrity. and he has made clear he will continue

8 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on